Temporary restraining order blocks Missouri Attorney General’s emergency order restricting transgender medical care

An emergency order that would have restricted medical care access for transgender Missourians is now on hold following a St. Louis Circuit Court Judge ruling.
Published: May. 1, 2023 at 6:52 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - An emergency order that would have restricted medical care access for transgender Missourians is now on hold following a St. Louis Circuit Court Judge ruling.

“There is a sense of relief on our side that the order is not going into effect immediately,” said Tony Rothert, Director of Integrated Advocacy, ACLU Missouri.

The ACLU is one of several groups that have joined together against Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s decision to issue an emergency order that would have required additional assessments and roadblocks before a transgender youth or adult could access gender-affirming treatment, which includes hormones, puberty blockers and surgery.

The assessments and requirements included documenting three years of patterns of gender dysphoria and 15 hours of mental health care, among other things.

On Monday, Judge Ellen Ribaudo granted a temporary restraining order preventing the emergency order from taking effect for the time being. In the ruling, it states the attorney general’s order is broad and was implemented without further fact finding or evidence. Also, the transgender plaintiffs represented in this suit have met their burden to show they could suffer from loss, damage or injury if the rule takes effect.

Groups like the ACLU say this victory for the transgender community and a first step in fighting back against Bailey’s order.

“But we know that this is two more weeks that the order is on pause and we know that next week, we’ll have to prove our case, and we look forward to doing that,” said Rothert. “With the preliminary injunction hearing next week, there will be time for witnesses to come before the judge to hear testimony who, unlike the Attorney General, know what they’re talking about when it comes to treatment for transgender folks. She will be able to make a reasoned decision based on evidence, rather than acting in this self-created emergency that the Attorney General has caused to happen.”

The Attorney General’s office responded to today’s temporary restraining order with this statement:

We remain confident in our position because the Court even acknowledged that it deferred its consideration of the science until a later date. Our six pages of endnotes speak for themselves: these procedures are experimental. We will continue to fight for all patients to have access to adequate health care.

A preliminary injunction is now set for May 11 at 1 p.m., where the judge will get more time to hear all parties in this case, but SLU visiting law professor Laura Hermer tells News 4 the ruling today shows the judge is already showing skepticism towards Bailey’s order.

“She’s noting that this is something that hasn’t been done before with respect to any other kind of medical care. This is something that is brand new, a novel use of the statue, as she said,” said Hermer.

Bailey’s use of power to invoke this emergency order in the first place has also been criticized by advocates of the transgender community, and they say it is already causing more harm than good to Missourians.

“We’ve seen parents starting to get ready to leave the state, [with] their kids. We’ve seen adults getting ready to sell their houses and leave the state as well,” said Shira Berkowitz, Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for PROMO Missouri. “And we’ve seen hundreds of Missourians getting new prescriptions for their gender-affirming care.”

While the temporary restraining order expires on May 15, Hermer says it is very possible the judge would extend it, given the work that needs to be done to look over all the evidence Bailey says support this emergency order and the evidence and testimony that contradicts it.

“To have to go through all of this in a very short period of time I suspect, is asking for too much. It’s much better to take a more considered view and see really what should happen here and whether this should be a situation where the Attorney General should step in as a consumer protection,” said Hermer.